Home Entertainment The Football Monologues review – genial indie takes tips from Alan Bennett

The Football Monologues review – genial indie takes tips from Alan Bennett

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A massive season, this, for Greg Cruttwell. Subsequent month, the BFI revives Mike Leigh’s Naked, during which Cruttwell landed his most indelible performing gig because the yuppie scumbag Jeremy. This week, nonetheless, he resumes writer-director duties with this genial indie that casts Leigh alumni and TV stalwarts as football-crazed people, pouring their hearts out to a principally static digital camera for 90 minutes, plus damage time. It’s an innately theatrical proposition, like a fringe play that’s snuck in by means of the Odeon fireplace doorways. But that is fairly sound stuff, engagingly carried out: if not a powerful triumph for one medium over one other, then the type of honourable draw that sends everyone house fairly glad.

Its techniques derive from the Alan Bennett playbook, revealing what first appear to be eccentrically heightened passions, whether or not for Spurs or the fictional Sandersbrook United under-12s, as cowl for deeper, extra private struggles. Within the boardroom, Emma Amos’s non-league chairwoman mulls the ethics of an affair along with her married supervisor over glasses of chardonnay; superfan Stephen Boxer (The Crown’s Denis Thatcher) splutters sausage roll whereas overinvesting in a juniors’ crew (with reassuringly healthful motive); hotshot Samuel Anderson has his standing challenged by an inflow of academy children. Inevitably, referees get some stick: Mark Hadfield offers comedian reduction as an official who refers back to the pitch as his “kingdom”, solely to see himself royally dethroned.

The overarching editorial stance is a generalised sigh about cash by no means trickling right down to grassroots, and if Cruttwell’s area of interest punning (“No means, José Mourinho”) can’t match Bennett’s Messi-level wit, he’s good at drawing out distinct persona sorts. Brian Bovell is an image of affability as a cabby-turned-scout, whereas Candida Gubbins proves a mid-film dynamo as a late convert drawn by her Dulwich Hamlet-supporting beau into barracking “the Tooting scum”. Like Leigh, Cruttwell affords his gamers time and house to run a mile, additional shaping the credible chatter with even handed reducing between workaday places. It’s refreshing, too, to see a football-themed Britpic that swerves the overworked territory of hooliganism; as Gubbins’ Amelia insists: “There aren’t any hooligans at Dulwich.”

The Soccer Monologues is launched on 29 October in cinemas.

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